An article on ZDNet, “Mavericks: The end of Macs in the enterprise?“, complains that Apple will no longer update older versions of their Mac operating systems, now that Mac OS X 10.9 has been released. The author claims that Apple is forcing CIOs to make a choice of upgrading to an untested operating system or leave themselves open to attack. The author certainly makes a convincing sounding argument, but ultimately it is not much more than Chicken Little claiming the sky is falling.
The author starts off by stating that Macs have never been that popular in the enterprise, which is somewhat funny because if Macs are not that popular in the corporate world, then what is the point of writing this article? I can only guess that it serves to tip the author’s hand that he simply isn’t that fond of Macintosh computers, which he reinforces by calling them “shiny” and later “pretty”, as if that is the only reason people buy Apple computers.
To say that Macs have never been that popular “in the enterprise” is true, but it isn’t the whole truth. The reality is that Macs have never been popular with IT departments who are in charge of managing a large number of commodity computers. To ask end-users, I’m sure we’d have a very different answer as to which computer they prefer, if given a choice. In addition, Macs are popular with departments that value what the Mac brings to the table, obviously design and/or publishing departments within corporations. These departments usually operate mostly autonomously from the larger corporate IT department because 1) many IT people have a irrational dislike of computers that aren’t Windows-based PCs, and 2) they generally do not require the constant support a Windows environment requires. Most creative departments are fairly happy to self-support their Macs because they can. And because Mac-using departments generally don’t need help from their corporate IT, it only serves to further raise the ire of IT departments who generally don’t like users who aren’t beholden to their assistance.
Macs will probably never be popular with enterprise IT departments, but it isn’t because of security “issues”. It is because the enterprise wants commodity computing. Macs will never be commodity computing. We shouldn’t look for Macs to replace PCs as commodity computing because mobile devices are doing that already. Not that it is relevant to this discussion, but it is somewhat amusing to see that Apple’s iPhone and iPad are the darling of corporate America. Again, not because they have been blessed by corporate IT, but rather because end users have overwhelmingly demanded it.
The reality is as CIO it doesn’t matter what you think. You will need to support whatever devices your end-users are bringing into the work environment. BYOD isn’t a suggestion anymore. But this is actually a very good thing for the enterprise. Shift the burden of device support to your users. Configure your IT infrastructure so that it doesn’t matter what device your users bring on. And for the love of god, make sure your corporate data security isn’t dependent on securing end-user devices. If your network can be compromised because some PC has a virus, then you’ve failed. Just as companies don’t give employees cars nor worry about the maintenance of their employees transportation, companies should make it an expectation that employees have properly functioning computing devices. If it doesn’t work, its up to the employees to get it fixed. That will ensure employees make good decisions about their technology. Which usually means NOT choosing a Windows PC.
Still, the entire premise of this article is highly suspect. Why on Earth would you switch to an untested operating system? Mavericks is out now. Start testing it. It’s not like you need to upgrade right this second. You have at least a few weeks if not months to do some very thorough testing and for software vendors to patch software if necessary. The sky is not falling, Chicken Little.
I understand that when viewing the world through Windows-colored glasses, people tend to be a little jittery. Yes, security patches are an absolutely critical thing for Windows systems. I can’t blame anyone for being a little shell shocked when they are in charge of a Windows environment. Windows is a war-zone and those who use Windows need to take every precaution necessary. But after 12 years and only a very few instances of malicious software – most of which has been very minor, not very widespread, and/or easily remedied – I think the proof is in the pudding that Mac OS X is a very secure operating system. Apple might not be patching older operating systems? Boo-hoo. Pull up your big boy pants and realize this is The New World of Technology. If security is your concern, you should be embracing anything that doesn’t start with a “W” and ends with “indows”.
If the idea is to walk away from headaches, everyone in IT should have long ago ran screaming from the migraine that is Windows. Managing Mac computers is a walk in the park compared to the nightmare that is Windows. If the choice is to not leave yourself open to attackers, Windows is NOT that choice. Windows’ swiss-cheese design leaves itself open to attackers and we must stay vigilant to patch every hole in the dam that springs a leak. The Mac OS has proven itself to be a formidable fortress and the latest version is more secure than ever. Instead of acting like Chicken Little and screaming that the sky is falling, take a breath, look at the big picture, and quit missing the forest for the trees.